Update on the Hairball Bike Path

The city placed boulders under the ramps to deter encampments--what about the bike paths?


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The San Francisco Department of Public Works placed boulders along the Hairball, the mess of freeway ramps where US-101, Cesar Chavez, and Potrero come together. This was widely reported when the boulders went in last month on the open areas under the ramps. And late last week news came down that plans are moving forward to build another ‘navigation center,’ temporary housing and social services for the homeless, specifically to help those in the Hairball.

“Towards the end of last year, conditions seemed to be declining for people biking and living at the Hairball. We worked with the City’s Department of Housing and Homelessness along with Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s office to ensure that transitional housing was built nearby to dedicate more resources to those living at the Hairball,” wrote Charles Deffarges, community organizer for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, in an email to Streetsblog. “We hope that with more beds and services in the immediate vicinity of the Hairball, more and more people living at and near the Hairball will be able to transition into stable housing.”

So how are things shaping up on the Hairball’s bike paths?

Some of the boulders placed by the city to deter encampments.

Streetsblog reached out to tipster Dan Crosby, who used to commute through the hairball daily. The bike paths were getting increasingly crowded with encampments and debris. Then in January of last year, when he was navigating around a tent, a person popped out suddenly. Crosby swerved to miss him, hooked his handlebars on a shopping cart, and went down.

It was a low-speed crash and Crosby wasn’t badly hurt, but he decided to find another way to work. “I stopped taking that route when the bridge had become impassable.” However, he returned last week and found the city’s efforts have worked to keep the paths clear–at least for the moment. He shot this video of his westbound ride through the Hairball:

For contrast, this is what it looked like last year, from a video (see below) shot by cyclist Angela Logan. She emailed the video to Ronen’s office (her district encompasses the area) as well as to other supervisors and relevant city department heads (she also cc’d Streetsblog). “I live in Bernal Heights and ride my bike every day to get to CalTrain to go to Palo Alto. This is what my morning commute is like,” she wrote in that email.

Logan’s video is the eastbound side, but it still illustrates the contrast between this year and last year. Streetsblog followed up and took a first-hand look at the paths today, in both directions. Indeed, for the moment, things are passable again–if still far from perfect. The city seems to be storing movable fences on the path, some of which have fallen (or were pushed?) over. Streetsblog has an inquiry out with the Department of Public Works to try and find out why they’re there and will update this post accordingly. There’s also still some litter, although nothing like last year.

Caption blah
The city is storing these movable fences on the Hairball paths, some of which have fallen over.
It’s still not a very nice place to ride, and there’s certainly debris and litter, but its a whole lot better than this time last year.
There's still a lot of work to do to make the Hairball safe, especially on the approaches.
There’s still a lot of work to do to make the Hairball safe, especially on the approaches.

Crosby, meanwhile, hasn’t yet returned to taking the Hairball for his regular commute and goes instead via Mission Bay. Unfortunately, that carries its own hazards. “Illinois has construction that forces me over the streetcar tracks repeatedly, and 3rd Street has no bike lane and fast traffic,” wrote Crosby.

Have you ridden the hairball route lately? Let us know if you’ve seen improvements.

  • shotwellian

    Minor point: the planned navigation center is 3 blocks to the south, not 3 miles.

    Personally, I remain frustrated that SF isn’t pushing Caltrans on rebuilding the entire interchange. I know this is a slow process, but SFMTA assured a public meeting in 2010 that they were working on it, and nothing’s happened since.

  • Roger R.

    I looked up 125 Bayshore … it does appear to be about 3 miles away. They’re calling it “near.” Is the address wrong maybe in the Examiner?

  • Roger R.

    Okay, just heard back from Hillary Ronen’s office. Apparently, it’s at the corner of Jerold and Bayshore, which is right off the Hairball. But they also say the address is 125 Bayshore, so it’s some fluke of Google Maps or I dunno what. Anyway, not that important, so I’m just leaving it out of the post. Thanks again Shotwellian.

  • shotwellian

    When I look up 125 Bayshore Blvd on Google Maps, it gives me this spot, just south of Jerrold. And BevMo, which is visible in Streetview near that spot, is listed as 201 Bayshore. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/75e85a3b7e491887e90c2c29c5b433a25c9d7f0a48395f5eb60574e44925285b.png

  • curiousKulak

    No, 125 Bayshore is pretty darn close. I thought – when they mentioned ‘parking lot’ – that they meant the lot right on C.Chaves @ 101 (currently used by cops?).

    It is 3 miles from SFBC offices … .

  • curiousKulak

    I’ve gone back there recently – prepared to take Kansas over the hill IF …, and was pleasantly surprised. Have been thru a number of times this year, and, although campers are occasionally there (specially EB), its nothing like it was 6 mths ago.

    That said, the City has to be consistent about keeping this avenue clear. Otherwise, people will have ONE bad experience and chuck the whole idea of riding in that entire area forever. Specially women and anyone else who feel vulnerable. NO ONE camps on the pathway!

    It was explained to me many years ago that this interchange is the result of SF telling Caltrans to ‘bug off’ – that “they” knew best how to build their own Off ramps. Well, you can see the results of such parochialism.

  • shotwellian

    Sure thing! Didn’t mean to nitpick–it just caught my eye bc, if it really were 3 miles away, the navigation center probably wouldn’t help the hairball situation.

  • Roger R.
  • shotwellian

    Yea, that’s weird. Google gave me that at one point also. In any case, that’s a single-family house.


Advocates and city officials discussed the plight of the homeless on the Hairball last night in the Mission. Photo: SFBC

Bike Talk on Homeless and the Hairball

Melodie, a woman in her late 50s who lives in a camper along one of the streets leading into the Hairball, pleaded with city officials and advocates to just give homeless people some sanctuary and peace. “There’s no where else to go,” she said to a group of some 40 bike and homeless advocates who […]

Homeless on the Hairball Follow Up

On Tuesday, Streetsblog followed up on a report from Dan Crosby, a bike commuter who rides the hairball, about how the westbound bike bridge had become almost completely obstructed by the homeless. Streetsblog reached out to several agencies and the mayor about it. And a day later the encampment that was blocking the bike lane, […]